Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: All Good Things Must Come to an End

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are back for one final season. During the previous season, the team beat back a monster that consumed planets, only to have the alien race called Chronicoms target the Earth for disrupting the space-time continuum. The team found themselves shifted in time to New York City in 1931, and now it’s up to Mack, Yo-Yo, May, Fitz, Simmons, Deke, Daisy, and a robotic version of Coulson to save the world one more time. There are hints that their travels during the season will take them to different time periods, and their mission will be intertwined with the origins and history of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. It looks like we are in for a season filled with action, guest stars, and more than a little fan service!

Only Agents who are cleared to observe SPOILERS should proceed beyond this point! You have been warned!

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned for the seventh and final season last night (Wed., May 27). This marked an ending not only for the show, but for the era of Marvel Television, a unit that has been disbanded and merged into the larger Marvel Studios organization. Instead of appearing on the traditional network, ABC, it is likely that future Marvel TV shows will appear on the new Disney Plus streaming service. In the six seasons to date, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. covered a lot of territory, including the destruction of the larger S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, the emergence of the Inhumans, battles with Hydra, attacks by aliens, monsters, and robots, and travels through space and time. The show was co-created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen, with Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell served as showrunners.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has fared better than other Marvel shows appearing on ABC. Agent Carter, while very well received critically, had low ratings, and lasted only two seasons. Inhumans was dead on arrival, its abbreviated first season not connecting with fans at all. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kept plugging along, earning decent ratings and gaining improved critical reception as it continued, and building a worldwide following in syndication and on streaming services.

 

The Story So Far

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Screenshot: Marvel/ABC

As Season One debuted, a large audience tuned in to find out how Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) would return after his high-profile death in the first Avengers movie. On a giant aircraft nicknamed “the Bus,” he traveled the world with an elite team: Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), a tough senior agent; Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a dashing leading-man type; Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), a brilliant biologist; and Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), gadget builder extraordinaire. The team’s mission was to seek out “0-8-4s”: superhuman threats and objects of unknown origin. But eager viewers were a bit let down by the lack of A-list villains among these threats, and the character Skye (Chloe Bennet) was not terribly convincing as an activist hacker.

All that changed when Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. was riddled with evil Hydra agents, giving the show a shot in the narrative arm. Agent Ward turned out to be allied with Hydra, along with his mentor John Garrett (played by the excellent Bill Paxton). Also appearing were femme fatale Raina (Ruth Negga) and the mysterious Agent Koenig (Patton Oswalt), the first of a whole family of siblings working for S.H.I.E.L.D. As the season continued, there were several key cameos from Marvel movie characters, most notably Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Season Two continuing the battles between Hydra and the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. Notable additions included Agents Triplett (B.J. Britt), mercenary Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), and Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki, who arrived in one of the show’s standout fight scenes). Skye became an apprentice agent and grew more likeable. Coulson was obsessed with alien symbols, and the team searched for a mysterious obelisk that might be tied to his resurrection. The show introduced the Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we discovered Skye was a latent Inhuman. Viewers were introduced to Skye’s (or Daisy’s) parents, Calvin Johnson (Kyle MacLachlan) and Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), with both actors breathing life into roles that could have been clichés. Two new additions who would have larger roles going forward were Agent “Mack” MacKenzie (Henry Simmons) and “frenemy” General Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar). In a cliffhanger ending, Agent Simmons disappeared, absorbed into the obelisk. The season was well received critically, as the show seemed to be finding its groove.

Season Three followed Inhumans, like Daisy, on the run from authorities, who wanted to register superpowered persons. S.H.I.E.L.D. took some of these under their wing as the “Secret Warriors,” including Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). Agents Hunter and Morse unfortunately left the team. Former Agent Ward tried to rebuild Hydra with the help of powerful allies, and killed Coulson’s new girlfriend. The Agents raced Hydra to build a portal to the far-off world where Simmons was stranded, and on that planet Coulson gave into hatred and killed Ward. But when an evil monster called Hive, long exiled to the planet, inhabited Ward’s body to return to Earth, Coulson had reason to regret that decision. The season ended with a massive battle between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hive with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Season Four introduced magic to the series in the form of an evil book called the Darkhold, and the arrival of Robbie Reyes, the Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna). It also introduced the technology of Life Model Decoys (or LMDs), and LMD character Aida (Mallory Jansen). And in a very well-received arc, Aida stranded many of the Agents in a virtual world that was a twisted version of our own, where Hydra ruled, Aida was Madame Hydra, Fitz was her evil confidant, and Coulson was a schoolteacher. The battle with Aida spilled back into the real world, and with the help of Ghost Rider, Aida was defeated. In order to win, Coulson took on the Ghost Rider powers, a deal with dark repercussions. In yet another cliffhanger ending, the entire team (except Fitz) was kidnapped and transported to some sort of alien space station.

In Season Five, Agents Mack and Yo-Yo took on more prominent roles. The team found themselves in the far future, on remnants of Earth floating in space, ruled by cruel Kree invaders. The team was aided by the mysterious Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward), who turned out to be Fitz and Simmons’ grandson. Back in the present, Fitz met an alien Chronicom named Enoch (Joel Stoffer), who put him into suspended animation on a spaceship so that he could rejoin his friends in the future. The team raced to build a device into the Zephyr, their new aircraft, so they could return to the present and head off the cataclysm that destroyed the Earth. This turned out to be the work of General Talbott; though he had the best of intentions, Talbott ended up transformed into the villain Graviton, and Fitz was killed in the final battle. Coulson unfortunately succumbed to an illness brought on by his temporary absorption of Ghost Rider powers, and after he and May admitted their love to one another, decided to spend his final days with her on a tropical island. He put Mack in charge of the Agents, and their first mission (with Deke as a new team member) was to go into space to find Fitz, whose younger self was still in suspended animation.

While Season Five could have provided a solid final ending to the series, the network ordered two more shorter seasons of the show. Season Six had the team split between rescuing Fitz and Enoch out in space and fighting a mysterious team of aliens whose leader, Sarge, looked just like Coulson. But that team, while amoral, turned out to be fighting an evil force that destroyed whole planets. It took the entire season to reunite Fitz and Simmons, and the while the evil force was eventually defeated, the team found themselves once again unstuck in time, with their Zephyr aircraft back in New York of 1931. They needed an expert on the history of S.H.I.E.L.D., so they re-created Coulson as a Life Model Decoy to guide them.

 

The Season Seven Premiere Episode (701): “The New Deal”

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Screenshot: Marvel/ABC

The network announcement of the new season stated: “Coulson and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are thrust backward in time and stranded in 1931 New York City. With the all-new Zephyr set to time-jump at any moment, the team must hurry to find out exactly what happened. If they fail, it would mean disaster for the past, present and future of the world on the rip-roaring season premiere…”

And wow, even though I had reviewed my notes on what had gone on before, I found myself having trouble keeping up. The alien Chronicoms are traveling through time, trying to disrupt human history to prevent the pesky Earthlings from thwarting their efforts in the future. They were able to download all of Fitz and Simmons’ knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D., so Fitz has gone into hiding, and (taking a few years to do it, using time travel stuff) Simmons and Enoch have upgraded the Zephyr, which now has the ability to follow the Chronicoms through time.

Simmons stays in the Zephyr to oversee the mission. May is still in a suspended animation tube recovering, Enoch is working to heal her, and she won’t be ready to decant for about a week. Yo-Yo is recovering from her Shrike infestation from last season, and getting a new set of prosthetic arms courtesy of Simmons. They activate the Life Model Decoy version of Coulson, but it takes two attempts to get him oriented. Clark Gregg does a marvelous job playing a slightly younger and more lighthearted Coulson—but with a tinge of sadness, because the LMD knows the only reason he is here is because the original is dead. Then Coulson, Mack, Daisy and Deke head out into Jazz Age New York.

One thing that is immediately apparent is the quality of this season, which appears to have received a healthy budget increase. The special effects are great, as are the 1930s sets, props, vehicles, and costumes. The fight scenes are exciting and well-choreographed, and the acting is top-notch. The show is getting a chance to go out in style.

The Chronicoms show up in a shop, where they kill and impersonate some dirty cops, then kill a bootlegger. Daisy and Deke, impersonating RCMP Mounties, go in to look at the faceless bodies the Chronicoms left behind. Coulson and Mack find a clue on the dead bootlegger which Coulson recognizes as being connected to a speakeasy that was later used as a S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse, so they go to investigate. They find the speakeasy owned by Ernest Koenig (played, like all male Koenigs, by Patton Oswalt). The two take out Koenig’s goons and sit down to talk business. Koenig introduces a young bartender named Freddy, and will be hosting a party soon, attended by the governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt. The Chronicom cops try to jump Deke and Daisy, but one Chronicom is disabled, and they capture the other and bring him back to the Zephyr.

Mack, Coulson, Daisy, and Freddy head out to the party, and the Agents go all fanboy on FDR. But despite his importance to history, FDR is not the target. A knockout brunette in a red dress meets Freddy and gives him some vials full of green stuff; she tells him they contain the future. On the Zephyr, Simmons, Yo-Yo, and Enoch interrogate the captured Chronicom and find out Freddy is the actual target. The Chronicom cops show up, shoot the woman in red, and are about to kill Freddy when the Agents save the day. Coulson and Daisy take the woman in red back to Koenig’s speakeasy and find out that Freddy is Wilfred Malick, father to Gideon Malick, a founder of modern Hydra. So, it looks like to keep the time stream intact, they may have to save not only S.H.I.E.L.D., but also Hydra. And Freddy and the others have not shown up yet…

In the stinger, May has awakened and is hiding in the Zephyr from Enoch, who she apparently does not trust. And in the preview of upcoming episodes, we see that S.H.I.E.L.D. itself is the target for the Chronicoms.

 

Final Thoughts

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Screenshot: Marvel/ABC

The premiere was a bit hard to follow at first, as I caught up on the backstory. But I was soon absorbed in the new storyline and going right along with things. The actors are all at the top of their game, and their experience working together definitely shows. It was nice to see all the historical references, and there was a lot of humor in the mix to keep things from being too dark. There was also a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan service, calling back to previous episodes and plotlines, and it looks like there will be a lot more to come as the season unfolds. If this episode is any indication, we are in for a fun and exciting ride!

As we’ve done in the past, this post kicks off a discussion thread I will shepherd as the season unfolds, adding new comments every time another episode airs. I’m eager to hear what you thought of this episode. If you want to follow the discussion, the best way to do it is to use your Tor.com user account. If you don’t have one, it’s easy to sign up. Then you will be able to follow the thread using the “My Conversations” feature, which makes it a lot easier to participate in discussions on the website. Feel free to come back each week and discuss the latest episodes, or share any S.H.I.E.L.D. news you might hear. In the words of the dearly missed Stan Lee, “Don’t yield, back S.H.I.E.L.D.!”

Alan Brown has been a fan of S.H.I.E.L.D. from its comic book beginning over fifty years ago.  He still remembers reading that very first adventure in Strange Tales #135.

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